disaster struck Northwich's last salt mine
Northwich's famous Adelaide Mine was situated at Marston, and at
the beginning of this century was one of the largest to be worked
in the area. In September 1896 the mine was visited by members of
the British Association who were conducted through the vast underground
workings by Thomas Ward, on behalf of the Mine's owners.
In 1896 the excavated area was round 15 acres, with the roof supported
on pillars of rock salt. 'I'hese massive pillars measured 10 yards
square and were spaced at 20-25 yard intervals.
At the foot of the main shafts was a spacious hall, hewn our of
solid rock salt and known locally as the 'Crystal Ballroom', a name
derived from the fact that some years previously many of the local
townsfolk attended a dance held in the mine.
When the mines were opened to the public on these special occasions
the vast workings were specially illuminated, the light reflecting
from the walls of rock salt presenting a magnificent spectacle.
From this great cavern ran the several workings, some of thern almost
a half mile long, and from these workings the rock salt was conveyed
to the foot of the main shafts on special 'bogie trucks' drawn by
ponies. Four ponies were employed in this mine to haul the rocksalt
from the working areas and they were stabled in part of the main
hall, and by all accounts the animals showed no sign of any ill-effect
at being housed below ground.
After being drawn tip the shaft the rock salt was crushed and graded
by machinery and then loaded onto barges and rail waggons, the rail
sidings and canal being in close proximity to the mine.
One of the greatest difficulties that the miners had to face was
the percolation oi'water into the mine shafts and the area of the
shafts was roofed over to keep out the rain and snow.
On March l3, 1928, water was seen to be entering the main shaft
at a point halfway down and the men were speedily dispatched to
plug the hole with wooden wedges.
Every effort was made to arrest the inrush of water but by evening,
despite the men's efforts, the water level in the mine was rapidly
A small party of workmen descended the shaft to make an inspection
of the mine, but found that their oil lamps were being extinguished
as the air in the mine was displaced.
The safety of the four ponies was causing some concern as they were
in danger of being drowned.
As the shafts were of restricted width it was impossible to evacuate
the animals and a licensed horse-slaughterer was sent for. Although
the water in the mine was rising at an alarming rate the horse slaughterer
descended the shaft and was able to destroy the animals humanely.
So ended the Aldelaide Mine, the last mine in the Northwich area.
In its lifetime it had been visited by people from all parts of
the world and they had always been privileged by the owners to descend
and inspect the mine workings.
The closure also brought considerable hardship for the 40-50 men
employed at the mine who had little hopeof finding suitable employment
in the area.
Within half a mile of' the mine was the large expanse of water known
as the "Big Hole". A few hours after the flooding of the
Adelaide Mine, the water level in the Big Hole dropped between 3-4
feet and it was estimated that several million gallons of water
had entered an unidentified underground channel, and via this channel
flooded the mine.
The site of the former mine is now covered with water and some traces
of brickwork are still just about visible above the level of water.
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